Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Challenge to the Men's Rights Movement

Alright, listen up, men’s rights people. You say you want to improve the lives of all men, to protect their rights. Well, I have a challenge for you: Can you stand up for the male individuals who act feminine?

It’s no secret that men who show signs of anything associated with femininity are looked down upon. Effeminate men are made the butt of jokes all the time in the media and in real life. Just tonight I watched Date Night, where the male lead is described as androgynous and hilarity ensues as he is forced to agree with that. More than jokes, such men and boys are frequently the victims of violence because their femininity is seen as such a horrible offense to manhood. This is misogyny manifesting itself in violence against men. Can you denounce this misogyny as wrong?

There are men who wear makeup and dress in clothing considered to be for women, but they are still men and still consider themselves men. Some would say they are confused, but they know darn well what gender roles are and they don’t care. Men’s rights people tend to say things like ‘feminism has emasculated them and made them not want to be men’ in response, but that ignores the legitimacy of their perspectives. It is entirely possible for a man to legitimately want something you don’t want. Will you stick up for these men, not by asserting your own viewpoint that there’s something terribly wrong with them, but by letting them define their masculinity in their own way?

Feminists have been associated with butch lesbians or just women who behave in a stereotypically masculine way. This is accurate to an extent. Feminists often believe that patriarchal culture has forced them into a role that isn’t for them and adopting this masculinity is their attempt to both be themselves and actively rebel, which can cause a somewhat exaggerated effect. Men’s rights folks tend to respond with thoughts of how feminists are disrupting the natural order by going outside traditional gender roles. On the other hand, what about the men who behave in a stereotypically feminine way to be themselves and rebel against a culture where they are demeaned and attacked for expressing themselves? Can you look at a man doing something feminine and say that what he is doing is empowerment?

Feminists fought for the right of women to wear pants, and they succeeded. It is now incredibly common for women to wear pants. But because of the limitations of feminism as a movement that serves the welfare of women, it left the scale unbalanced. It used to be that women wore skirts and men wore pant exclusively. Now this sexist way of thinking is only partially undone. Women wear skirts and pants, but men can only wear pants. Well, Men’s Rights Movement? Why don’t you fight for the right of men to wear skirts? Why don’t you see that as a legitimate battle?

Men’s rights folks often decry feminism for wanting to force people to not embrace traditional gender roles or to embrace the opposite of such, but they miss the point. The point is not about force, but rather to remove force and just let people be themselves. Gender roles are not laws of nature, which should be apparent if one bothers to research other cultures across the world and throughout history. This line of thinking about force often is brought to raising children, the idea that feminists want to force people to raise girls like boys and boys like girls. The reality is that most mainstream feminists want to eliminate the oppressive nature of gender roles and treat them the same and praise them for being themselves, whether that be true to their respective gender roles or against them. Can you stick up for the boys who want to play with the dolls not labeled action-figures and who wear pink?

What this comes down to is whether you’re willing to stick up for men and boys against oppression even when that oppression comes from men, specifically men perpetuating misogyny. You see, women aren’t the ones oppressing men by keeping them from wearing skirts or makeup or the color pink or moving in a graceful manner or wiggling their hips or whatever through painting it as a weakness and an offense worth violence. The ones perpetuating that system of domination and abuse are other men. Feminists call this system ‘patriarchy’.

The reason you’re finding it hard to respect these abused men is the fact that to respect them you have to in turn respect their femininity. This is something patriarchy has socialized you to disrespect, but you can fight it. Just focus on the fact that you respect men, all men, and their rights in a sexist world. Embrace their femininity as part of their masculinity, not a weakness or something keeping them from being truly masculine. Most importantly, respect femininity and challenge patriarchy by asserting the value of femininity as just as cool as masculinity. Feminism has been working toward this goal for the sake of women, but here is a point where the interests of men’s welfare intersect with them.

Feminism is not inherently bad for men’s wellbeing. Many feminists can actually be men’s allies in the struggle against the system of violence where men dominate other men. Yeah, some feminists are nutty man-haters, but every group’s got its nutters. I don’t respect them either. Don’t judge a group by its crazies.

So, I’ll reiterate my challenge: Stand up for all men against sexism. Stand up for feminine men. Stand up to other men to fight sexism against men.

Can you do this without embracing feminism? I don’t believe so. The only way I see this working is if feminism and masculinism join together to fight sexism and better humanity.

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